Magical Night, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London (4/5)
Monday 12 December 2011
Of all the things you might expect from Kurt Weill, enchanted toys are low on the list.
In 1922, just six years before the Marxist sharp edges of The Threepenny Opera, Weill wrote Zaubernacht, a simple story of children watching their toys come to life. Recently rediscovered, the score is downright sweet. What brings this production to life is Aletta Collins’ staging, full of wit and invention.
Weill’s score was a success in Berlin and New York, then fell into obscurity. In 2005, a set of orchestral parts turned up in Yale University Library, allowing the restaging of the work. It’s a light, slight work, with some sinewy orchestration and a perky song for the fairy who brings the toys to life. James Holmes conducts a bright performance.
In this production, aimed at family audiences, Collins firmly updates the story. The children squabble and go to sleep in a modern bedroom, designed by Rachael Canning with bunk beds and cartoon duvet covers. The child performers are relaxed and spontaneous, whether absorbed in their games, bickering or getting involved in the adventure. Their mother, danced by Lorena Randi, is visibly exhausted, sending them back to bed again.
The toys are brilliantly characterised through body language and Gabrielle Dalton’s costumes. Thomasin Gülgeç’s monkey toy has a tuft of stuffing where his tail ought to be, and a manufacturer’s label sticking out of the seam down his back. He wriggles up out of the toy box, feet first, then clambers all over the room: up the bunk beds, over the door, down the walls.
Alessandra Ruggeri’s Tumble Tot is an unnervingly flexible baby doll, rolling along on bandy, blue babygro’d legs. Greig Cooke’s Sir Green Knight is a retro toy, swishing his sword but not quite keeping up with the modern world; Owen Ridley-DeMonck’s Might Robot strikes noble poses, while the display screen on his chest flashes greetings to Earth.
Soprano Yvette Bonner is a downright Pink Fairy, singing crisply, with movement skills to keep up with a whole cast of dancers. As the children stir in their sleep, she orders the other toys into stillness with an imperious, imploring look.
In the midst of the magic, the little girl brings her witch drawing to life, then has to help rescue her brother from the witch’s clutches. Randi makes a spiky witch, all twitching fingers and reaching limbs. She’s lulled by the charms of the Robot – who not only leads her in a couple dance, but offers neck rubs and a nice cup of tea.
Magical Night is a gentle performance, with lots of variations on simple plot developments. Collins, her cast and creative team give it delightful freshness and warmth.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 3 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 4 AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
- 5 Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE for 'religious mistakes'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk